Dog Ears and their Care

Dog Ears and their Care


Dog ears are larger than humans.  The ear canal is longer and can become infected and very sensitive.  Cleaning dog’s ears is a very important part of dog ownership.   We’ll see how dog ears are constructed.  We will look at how infections affect dog ears.  You will to learn how to clean your dog’s ears safely.

Your Dog’s Ears

Dog ears come in all shapes and sizes. They can be large and floppy, small and erect, or anything in between! Looking at your dog’s ears will tell you what he is thinking. If they are in a relaxed position then he is relaxed.  If they are up then he is alert and focused.  When they are pinned flat against his head he is nervous or afraid.  They also can tell you about his health.

Many dog owners understand the importance of annual vaccinations, routine vet checkups, and heartworm prevention. Unfortunately, many dog owners fail to include their dog’s ears in their daily or weekly care regimen.

When is the last time you cleaned your dog’s ears?  Did you even know that you needed to? Dog ear care is an important part of being a dog owner, so do your dog a favor and take the time to learn how to do it.

In this article, you’ll learn some basic information about your dog’s ears. You’ll also learn about the dangers of ear infections, how to spot them, and how to treat them.  Finally, you’ll receive step-by-step instructions for cleaning your dog’s ears.

Anatomy of Dog Ears

A dog’s ear is a complex structure.  Technically, the ear is an organ and it consists of three parts – the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.

Outer Ear

The outer ear is largely made up of the pinna and the ear canal. The pinna is simply the outward structure of the ear – cartilage covered by skin and fur.  This part of the ear is uniquely shaped to capture sound waves which are then funneled down into the ear canal to the eardrum. A dog’s ear is mobile – he can move them together or separately to capture sound. The size and shape of the pinna varies by breed.

You probably already know that your dog’s hearing is much stronger than yours. But just how strong is it? The average dog can hear higher frequencies than the human ear and their hearing ability is about 4 times stronger as a whole.

Middle Ear

The middle ear is made up of the eardrum as well as a small chamber that is filled with air and has three tiny bones inside it: the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. There are also two muscles in the inner ear as well as the eustachian tube. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the nose – this allows air to flow into the inner ear.

Inner Ear

The inner ear is the most complex of the three parts of the ear and it includes the cochlea and the vestibular system. The cochlea is the primary organ of hearing and the vestibular system is the organ of balance.

Inspect your dog’s ears.

Begin by looking at the outer and inner surface of the ear.  It should be dry and clean.  Next, look into the ear itself and down the ear canal.  It should also be dry and clean.  Hopefully, your dog’s ear is clean and dry inside – those are the signs of a healthy ear.

If your dog’s ear is moist, full of discharge, or has a foul odor, it could mean trouble.  The ear may be painful to the touch.   If your dog is constantly shaking his ears or walks with one side of his head down this indicates a problem.  These are the indications of an infected ear. 

Ear Infections

Dog ear infections can be caused by a number of things but the most common culprits are bacteria and yeast. These microorganisms tend to thrive in moist, warm environments like your dog’s ear.

How does an infection start?

In most cases, a dog ear infection begins with the ear getting wet. Depending on type of ear your dog has, the inner portion of the ear might not get enough air flow to keep it dry. This tends to happen more often to dogs with large, floppy ears.  

  • Bloodhounds
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Basset Hounds
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Beagles
  • Dachshunds
  • Coonhounds

Dogs with very hairy ears like Bichon Frise, Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, Maltese, and Poodles are also more prone to ear infections, as are dogs that have narrow ear canals like Chow Chows, Bulldogs, and Chinese Shar-Peis, to name a few.

When the ear gets wet and fails to dry out, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.  The microorganisms spread, causing inflammation and irritation to the middle ear.  If left untreated, the infection could spread all the way to the inner ear. At that point, it becomes a very serious problem.

Ear infections are one of the most common conditions to affect a dog’s ears, but there are others:

  • Airborne allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Ear mites

Let’s take a quick look at each of these before moving on.

Airborne Allergies – Dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies just as much as humans. Some of the most common airborne allergies to affect dogs are pollen and grass, and they may increase your dog’s risk for ear infections during allergy season – typically April through September.

Food Allergies – When you think about food allergies, you probably imagine gastrointestinal symptoms like stomach upset or diarrhea. For dogs, however, many symptoms of food allergies are skin-related – frequent ear infections is one of them!

Ear Mites – Dog ear mites are microscopic insects that can be spread from one dog to another with close contact. Mites are a type of mild parasite infection, though they can become serious if left untreated.

Signs of Infection

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of ear infection in dogs:

  • Scratching at the ears
  • Shaking the head
  • Rubbing the head, face, or ears
  • Discharge in the ear
  • Foul odor from the ear
  • Waxy buildup in the ear canal
  • Swollen or warm ear flaps
  • Head tilting behavior
  • Hair loss in or around the ears
  • Loss of coordination
  • Circling toward one side

Step-by-Step Dog Ear Cleaning Guide

First, you’ll need to assemble some materials:

  • Dog ear cleaning solution
  • Clean cotton balls or pads
  • Small, sharp scissors

Once you’ve assembled your materials, follow these steps:

  1. Squeeze a few drops of dog ear cleaning solution into your dog’s ear.
  2. Massage the base of the ear gently to distribute the dog ear wash.
  3. Use clean cotton balls or pads to wipe away any discharge or debris.
  4. Dry the ear well with another clean cotton pad.
  5. Use the scissors to trim any long fur in or around the ear to promote air flow.

There you have it!

Everything you could ever hope to learn about your dog’s ears and how to care for them. If you don’t have some already, your next step is to purchase some dog ear cleaning solution and to give your dog’s ears a good cleaning. After that, all you need to do is check his ears daily and clean them once a week, as needed.

It’s really as simple as that!

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